Policy and News Updates for August 26, 2005

Italics indicates new or updated news
Email your tips and updates to info@openthegovernment.org

Action Item–Tell Your FOIA Story!
OpenTheGovernment.org is collecting stories on the use of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). If you have an experience using FOIA–anything from delayed responses to costly appeals–please share it with us. We will be compiling stories to show how the law is being used, and to further educate leaders about the need to improve the law. Please tell us your story by email.


Policy Updates





[new] Federal shield laws: Protecting journalists and their confidential sources
S. 340 and H.R 581 support the free flow of information to the public by providing conditions for the federally compelled disclosure of information by certain persons connected with the news media.
Status: Both bills are in Judiciary Committee.
Sources: Text of S. 340 ; Text of H.R 581; To sign the petition to support these bills, click here

PATRIOT Act: House votes for renewal, Senate passes bill
The House passed a bill, H.R. 3199, on July 21 to indefinitely extend the PATRIOT Act. The bill, introduced by Rep. Sensenbrenner (R-Wis), renews 14 of the 16 provisions set to expire at the end of this year. The bill did not include the Sanders Amendment, which would have put library and bookstore records out of the Act’s reach. The other two provisions, sections 206 and 215, were extended for 10 years. Meanwhile, the Senate approved by unanimous consent a bill (S. 1389) sponsored by Chairman Arlen Specter (R- Pa) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) that would extend the PATRIOT Act. The Senate bill extends the wiretap and library provisions for four-years. The House and Senate measures must be reconciled in conference committee or the Patriot Act’s most controversial sections will expire at the end of the year.
Status: The House of Representatives must appoint members to the conference committee. The Senate appointed Sens. Specter (R-PA), Hatch (R-UT), Kyl (R-AZ), DeWine (R-OH), Sessions (R-AL), Roberts (R-KS), Leahy (D-VT), Kennedy (D-MA), Rockefeller (D-WV), and Levin (D-MI).
Sources: H.R. 3199; S. 1389; Bill of Rights Defense Committee summary; Text of Senate vote

House votes to fund Public Interest Declassification Board
The House approved a bill that would fund the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB) next fiscal year. Congress established the Board to advise the president on ways to prevent agencies from classifying documents that should be public. According to the House report on the 2006 Defense Appropriations Act (House Report 109-119), the House Appropriations Committee will allocate $1,000,000 to the PIDB. Even though most of its members have been named by the White House and Congressional leaders, the board has yet to meet.
Source: Text of House Report; POGO’s group letter supporting full funding of the Board

News from Coalition Partners

Journalist group publishes FOIA study
Two reports on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) were published by Coalition of Journalists for Open Government (CJOG) this month. One report provides a detailed look at the government-wide performance of federal agencies in handling FOIA requests and the other is a statistical review of FOIA litigation over the past six years. Several of our coalition partners are members of CJOG. To see a pdf version of the reports, click here.

American Library Association (ALA) releases report on law enforcement in libraries
The ALA released the full report of its survey measuring law enforcement activity in libraries. The report looks at requests by federal and state/local law enforcement in both academic and public libraries since 2001. View the report here.

Book groups urge support of PATRIOT Act legislation
The Campaign for Reader Privacy, a joint initiative of the American Booksellers Association, PEN American Center, the American Library Association, and the Association of American Publishers urge their support for House and Senate letters for S. 1389 (USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act). To find out more information, visit the Campaign for Reader Privacy.